20 Color Terms

If you are in the business of designing websites, one thing you will need to do is choose colors. Choosing colors can be a daunting task for any web designer because there are so many different color options available. When it comes to choosing the right color, understanding basic color terminology and how to use this terminology is key. This blog post will cover some basic terms that relates to colors and then show how they relate when used together on an example website page layout.

  • RGB: RGB is the color model in which red, green and blue light (the additive primary colors) are combined.
  • RGBA: This RGBA stands for the addition of a fourth primary color, alpha. Alpha is typically known as transparency which allows for semi-transparent pixels to be on the screen at one time.
  • HEX: HEX stands for hexadecimal and it’s what you’ll find when typing in your favorite colors into something like Photoshop or Microsoft Paint. A hex code will always consist of numbers followed by letters (examples include #00FF00 for green) composed of six characters representing three pairs of two digits each separated by either a colon or space with corresponding red, green, blue values respectively between 00 and FF until all three main RGB components have been specified).
  • CYMK: CYMk stands for cyan, yellowish magenta/purple, and bluish black and is what happens when you mix the three primary colors together inks.
  • Alpha: This refers to transparency which allows for semi-transparent pixels on the screen at one time.
  • Hue: Hue refers to the color of a light source. A hue is typically white, blue, or red.
  • Chroma/Chromacity: The brightness and purity of hues are measured by their chroma (or “chromaticity”). Chroma ranges from 0 for grayscale colors up to 100 for pure saturated colors like in full-spectrum lighting.
  • Saturation: Saturation measures how much pigment gets mixed with clear water before it becomes grayish looking.
  • Value: Value determines whether a specific color is bright or dull relative to other shades on that same value scale .
  • Intensity: Intensity describes the strength or power of an individual’s emotional response or psychological impression when viewing an object Examples include excitement, fearfulness, and sadness.
  • Tones: A tone is a hue which has been mixed with black or white.
  • Mass tones: Mass Tones are the colors you can mix together to create new hues using only three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) as opposed to tertiary colors from adding anywhere between two different primaries on top of each other. This allows for more variety in color choices than if one had to use six secondary colors instead.
  • Shade: Shade is what happens when darker pigments are added to a lighter pigment base such as white paint being applied over an already-existing shade of red paint. Shades range from light grayish browns up to dark nearly black grays whereas tints go from light blues through greens to oranges and reds.
  • Tint: Tints are different from shades in the sense that tints start with a light color (such as blue) whereas shades start with dark colors. A tint is created when lighter pigments such as white or yellow are added to an already-existing hue, resulting in pastels.
  • Primary Colors: There are three primary colors, which are orange, green and violet. To mix these you need two primary colors to create the new color mixture.
  • Secondary Colors: Yellow, Orange/Yellowish green (that’s what I would call it), Purple/Violet.
  • Complex Colors: These colors cannot be made using three primaries alone but can rather only be achieved by adding two other primary colors together on top of each other for example purple = red + violet; brown = orange + black; peach= yellow + red
  • Contrasting Colors: Contrasting colors are opposite each other on a color wheel. These two colors will always produce the strongest contrast, but for some designs it might be desirable to use more than one contrasting color.
  • Harmony: Harmance is achieved when opposites (or near-opposites) like orange and blue or yellow and purple are used together in order to create balance between warm and cool hues. It can also refer to using complementary palettes such as green with violet or peach with brown.
  • Undertone: Undertones describe how a hue appears due to its undertone which may make it appear warmer (“yellowish”) or cooler (“bluish”). For example, an intense pink-red has a blue undertone while a light pink-red has a yellowish or reddish undertone.

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